To the editor:
Newbuyport is facing its most important municipal election in perhaps 50 years. The issue before the voters is the fate of 4.2 acres of waterfront property presently owned by the Newburyport Redevelopment Authority, property that Newburyporters and their neighbors consider to be owned by the public, open (except for parking) at no charge. The NRA property, along with the Waterfront Trust park, is the only remaining open waterfront on the North Shore.
The issue: Should the NRA be permitted to sell off (or lease) parcels of the property for private development (building, perhaps as high as three stories), interfering with the public use of the land and giving away forever a public amenity? Private development will shrink the open space and give away land held as a public trust forever. No other issue in this election for City Council and mayor presents such a stark and final choice for voters. All other issues being discussed by the candidates are continuing matters, none of which involve selling off public land. I urge everyone to vote and to vote your conscience.
The candidates for mayor have made clear their positions: Donna Holaday promotes some private development, arguing that the city will achieve a net tax revenue, a notion yet to be fully explained. Richard Sullivan opposes commercial development of any part of the property. Both candidates, as do all of those running for City Council, wish to improve and reduce the parking facilities on the property, making way for an expanded (in some cases minimally expanded) park.
How do the other candidates stack up on this issue based on their public statements? Heartquist and Ferrick, in Ward 1, waffle on the issue. In Ward 2, Eigerman waffles on the issue and as does, but to a lesser extent, Welch. In Ward 3 both Cronin and Eckholdt appear to support the no-development agenda. In Ward 4, the choice is stark: incumbent Jones opposes development, challenger Tontar supports development. In Ward 5, Giunta opposes development, Reardon is for it. There is no contest in Ward 6.